As Andrea Bocelli sang the iconic Nessun Dorma, I wiped a tear from my eye. Sitting in the West Stand at the King Power Stadium, starring at the Italian classical singer as he serenaded us with his perfect rendition of an all-time classic, I didn’t think I could have loved a man more. But the Italian I am referring to was not Bocelli- it was the man to his left. The ever loveable, Claudio Ranieri.
Being a Leicester fan has certainly been a journey. In my 24-years I’ve seen a Stoke City pitch invasion after they clinched promotion to subsequently see us relegated to England’s third tier. I’ve seen Yann Kermorgant chip a penalty straight at Cardiff’s keeper in Wales to cost us a chance at Premier League Football. I’ve seen ‘that’ infamous Deeney goal that again ended another play-off heartbreak. And still. As I stood marvelling in what my club had just achieved, all the hardship that had forgone this moment only made it feel sweeter.
Ranieri is a charming individual of true compassion. He will walk into a press conference and shake every journalist’s hand in the room before sitting down. He is kind, intelligent, astute and most of all, highly respectful. From always being the nearly man with Chelsea, Valencia and Roma amongst others, God only knows how it must have felt for the nomadic journeyman to lift arguably football’s most prestigious domestic prize.
What he gave to me. To every fan, is almost indescribable. He took the impossible dream and made it a reality. For that, we are forever grateful. His compassion is only topped by his modesties and despite the events that have ensued, he will live on as the man who helped mastermind a memory that will be passed down from generation to generation in this small Midlands city.
Much has been made of his dismissal and football is a cruel, cut-throat business, however, Ranieri can walk away with his dignity intact. He never once blamed anyone for the horrid run of results and refused to be drawn into an argument with any of his critics. I’ve read and heard a lot of damming statements about my club in the past 24 hours but myself, like any other fan, wants to celebrate what Ranieri gave us, rather than start pointing fingers.
Whatever his is next for football’s ultimate gentleman, he will forever be in Leicester folklore. He is the man who achieved the greatest upset in the history of sport. Immortal.